Netherland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 March, 2009, 12:00am

Netherland
by Joseph O'Neill
HarperCollins HK$104

Netherland was one of the books of 2008. Its publication prompted members of one New York library to queue for hours for a glimpse of its cover. Its omission, some months later, from the Man Booker Prize shortlist inspired gasps of astonishment. Netherland (a pun tying together the Netherlands and netherworld) is the sort of meaty literary blockbuster Don DeLillo turns out in his sleep. Set in New York as the city recovers from the September 11 attacks, it follows the travails of Hans van der Broek. A successful city trader who specialises in the oil business, he watches dispassionately as his marriage, then his life, go into cold storage. Alone and detached, he finds comfort in a scrappy American version of cricket and the peculiar friendship of Chuck Ramkissoon. Joseph O'Neill writes with authority and clarity. Yet occasionally I felt there was something ponderous in the prose. Hardly an idea is raised without O'Neill's pounding it home: Hans' failure to communicate with his estranged wife, for example, is manifested in their son's inability to speak. These are minor and infrequent quibbles, however. Join the queue now.

 

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